The Houston Texans cruised beyond expectations in 2023.
They went 10-7 under new head coach DeMeco Ryans and captured several accolades along the way. They won the AFC South and won a playoff game for the first time since the 2019 season. Rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud won PFWA’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, rookie edge rusher Will Anderson won PFWA’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, and even Ryans took home hardware with PFWA’s Coach of the Year.
With a revamped team effort that led to dramatic improvements compared to both the 2021 and 2022 Texans, it’s worth examining who created that impact this past season and what their future projects moving forward.
This series looks at the Top 15 most impactful Houston Texans of the 2023 campaign — first up was defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins. Next up, running back Devin Singletary takes the spotlight.
Devin Singletary was signed early in free agency to a one-year $3.75 million contract that signaled he was a priority backup for second year running back Dameon Pierce.
— NFL (@NFL) March 20, 2023
Singletary had spent his first four seasons with the Buffalo Bills and was recurrently in a starter role but never quite featured in the offense. He’d run for at least 670 yards in every year and had topped 800 yards in both 2021 and 2022 prior to joining the Texans.
It was expected that Singletary would serve as a talented backup to Pierce, after a year where Houston had not had any viable alternatives to the rookie in their backfield. Additionally, Singletary would bring an element of pass-catching prowess and protection that might better compliment offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik’s offense and make the team more dynamic when passing.
Instead of backing up Pierce, 2023 turned out to be a campaign where Singletary starred.
He ran for a career-high 898 yards and four touchdowns while catching 30 balls for 193 yards. Singletary was a far more fit for Slowik’s inside zone running scheme and by mid-season his performance had essentially eliminated Pierce from the gameplan.
Singletary’s steady, although non-spectacular, presence was pivotal in providing Houston with some semblance of a balanced offense. They still leaned largely on Stroud and the passing game, but their best contests were ones where Singletary was providing a strong counter-punch to defenses too aggressively playing towards Stroud.
Devin Singletary powers in for the lead!
— NFL (@NFL) November 19, 2023
He played a huge role in the team’s upset victory over Cincinnati, where he ran for a season high 150 yards. Additionally, towards the end of the season he was able to help propel backup quarterback Case Keenum to a victory over the Tennessee Titans when he handled the rock 26 times for 121 yards.
Houston’s running game was frequently inefficient, as exposed in both their Week 18 victory over Indianapolis and their divisional round loss to Baltimore. However, Singletary showed glimpses of how dynamic the offense could look with a running dimension and prevented the Texans from having to force feed the sophomore Pierce in a scheme he struggled with.
How dreadful was the Houston running game yesterday? Devin Singletary carried 9 times for 22 yards.
He was stuffed on 5 of his 9 carries. He rushed for -.49 EPA/carry, the lowest value of any starting back in a game for Houston this year.
— John Crumpler (@JohnHCrumpler) January 21, 2024
He may not have been the most talented player on the offense — but it’s unlikely the Texans reach the heights they did without the dimension he brought through the season.
Singletary is an unrestricted free agent entering the 2024 offseason and it’s unclear what Houston will decide to do.
General manager Nick Caserio could elect to re-sign Singletary as the starter and bring in more competition at the backup spots, re-sign Singletary with the intent to serve as a backup behind a star like Saquon Barkley or Josh Jacobs, or allow him to walk from the team entirely.
There's no reason Devin Singletary doesn't start at running back the rest of this season.
These have been understandably weaker defensive matchups but his decision making within the scheme has been a huge upgrade for this offense.
Great running on that touchdown #WeAreTexans
— John Crumpler (@JohnHCrumpler) November 19, 2023
His reasonable 2023 price tag and role with the team makes it likely that Singletary is a player that the Texans at least attempt to bring back in 2024. Regardless of his anticipated role, the team now knows he is a more than serviceable player in their scheme.
The Texans rushing attack will have to improve if they want to take the leap forward next season. The role they designate Singletary for, big or small, could play a big part in just how successful those efforts ultimately are.